A Story of Us:

Before some Non-Fiction and Fiction titles, here are my recommendations for the 'bang for your buck' list for the 'Story of Us':

The How of Us -

From clashing atoms through to apes starting to find their way -

1. A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson)

"...Bill Bryson's quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization."

From particle physics, to chemistry, geology and Us. Bryson is a wonderful partner to read with.

2. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (Richard Dawkins)

"Natural selection - the unconscious, automatic, blind, yet essentially nonrandom process Darwin discovered - is the blind watchmaker in nature."

Take a rudimentary Earth and watch as life appears. An unplanned, somewhat clumsy, blind and disorganised start to life. But Us nonetheless.

3. The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins)

The gene's eye view  of Us and our (often) bizarre actions.

4. Guns, Germs and Steel - The Fates of Human Societies (Jared Diamond)

"The different historical trajectories of Africa and Europe stem ultimately from differences in real estate."

The explanation of how we came to develop as an array of civilisations based on our geography by one of the last great polymaths.

5. Sapiens - A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Noah Harari)

"Fire gave us power; Farming made us hungry for more; Money gave us purpose; Science made us deadly."

This work tracks us from our apish beginnings, through our (successful?) experiments with agriculture to the inventions of science, religion and capitalism. Wonderfully told.

The Who of Us -

What we are and the bizarre things we do -

1. The Body: A Guide For Occupants (Bill Bryson)

" discover how it functions, what can go wrong and its remarkable abilityu to heal itself, what emerges is that we are infintely more complex, wondrous and mysterious than any of us might have expected."

Take a tour of the all-too-bizarre vessel that is Us.

2. Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (Robert Sapolsky)

"Every act of human behaviour has multiple layers of causation, spiralling back seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, even centuries, right back to the dawn of time and the origins of our species."

We (that is, Us) are the sum of our parts, all of which are seemingly beyond our control, with a chain of causation stretching back to the dawning of the universe.

3. Thinking Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman)

"This book reveals how our minds are tripped up by error and prejudice (even when we think we are being logical)..."

Remind yourself how easily we are fooled with this seminal work.

4. Free Will (Sam Harris)

"A belief in free will touches nearly everything that human beings value."

Then consider if We have any choice in the matter at all...

5. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty (Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson)

"Why are some nations more prosperous than others?"

Now map everything you have learned about Us so far onto the scale of a Nation State.

6. The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity (Douglas Murray)

"...the dangers of 'woke' culture and the rise of identity politics."

Surely by now you could not be surprised of any behaviours from Us...

The Why of Us -

The restless ape searches for more...

1. The Moral Landscape (Sam Harris)

" can do more than tell how we are; it can, in principle, tell us how we ought to be."

Start the Why of Us with some thoughts on how we ought to act.

2. Man's Search for Meaning (Viktor E. Frankl)

"...everything can be taken away from us except the ability to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances."

How do We act in the worst of all circumstances? And why do We do this?

3. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel (Rolf Potts)

Why do We like to wander?

4. Walden (Henry David Thoreau)

And why do We like to seek solitude?


Of Wolves and Men (Barry Lopez)

A fascinating, biology-text level interrogation of the wolf, our relationship with her and the mythologies that link us.


The Count of Monte Christo (Alexandre Dumas)

The classic tale of jealousy, wrongful imprisonment, honour and revenge.

Good Omens (Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett)

Funny and brilliant and weird and great. And the series is just as good.

American Gods (Neil Gaiman)

The Gods are bound to their believers. So they are dragged to America in the holds of African slave ships; or they come with the Vikings on their long boats; or trek wth the tribes from Eurasia.

And they cannot leave. So they live among us. But now the new Gods are rising.

Brilliant and quirky. Again, the series is pretty good as well.

Jack Reacher (Lee Child)

This is not a recommendation for any one book in the series. Pick literally any of them.

Jack Reacher is the best character in all of Fiction.

(By the margin of a bomb threat...)

The Pilgrimage: A Contemporary Quest for Ancient Wisdom (Paulo Coelho)

A phantasmagorical journey along the road of San Tiago. Merging biography with mystical fiction, it turns into a humanist search for meaning.

And leaves me still thinking about it.

And this is the guy who authored 'The Alchemist', which was also awesome.

Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)

Harsh, unforgiving, a violent and depraved push along the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s told from the point of view of 'The Kid', a 14 year old boy.


Alright, now for the movies.

Top Shelf

The Princess Bride (1987)

'The Princess Bride' is the greatest movie of all time and will remain so until the end of said time.

How could it not be? - the kid in the bed, the grandfather, love lost, the suitor, the kidnappers, the chase, the fight, the escape, monsters, torture, revenge, true love, miracles - it's got everything.

Not to mention Wesley, the Dread Pirate Roberts, "Inconceivable!", Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), the sword fight, Andre the Giant, the battle of wits, " killed my father...".

It is perfect.

And for all those reasons, it sits in a class of its own.

Equal Second Place

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Just the whole Wes Anderson-ish schtick of this movie get's it as close to 'The Princes Bride' as can be.

The ensemble cast, the script, the aesthetics. So enjoyable. So funny.

The incomparable Gustave H, Zero the Lobby Boy, elderly lovers, the death, the chase and the sheer quotability of this bloody film.

Yep. Equal second place well-deserved.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Tied with 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' - I can't split them.

Another endlessly quotable epic. The Cohen Brothers with a classic.

Another ensemble cast, 'El Duderino', White Russians, the money, The Jesus, the other Lebowski, a beverage, the Nihilists, frames of reference, bowling, Creedence, the fucking Eagles and a rug that really ties the room together.

Right up there.

In Bruges (2008)

The darkest of black comedies with Ralph Fiennes in cracking form. Ripper.